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later, Stanley was picking himself off the tarmac, rubbing his elbow. The moped had skidded onward and bumped up onto the kerb. A few pedestrians had begun to look over from the bus-stop opposite. To his horror Stan saw that the suitcase had come off the bike and burst open, strewing brightly coloured underwear all over the pavement. A mortified cold sweat came over him and he rushed over and began frantically stuffing bras and panties into the case before anyone noticed his illicit cargo.

That evening, Staney settled down in his armchair with a bottle of Thunderbird and a four pack of lager, ready for a barrage of Saturday night trash on T.V.

The Thunderbird and lager was finished a few hours later and so was anything good on T.V. He got up, and went over to the kitchenette to make himself some toasted cheese. He was restless somehow, something was nagging at him, he knew what it was but tried to ignore it. He'd always gone out on his knicker-picking missions sober : to go out in his present dull-witted state would be pure folly. He had to resist the temptation, he had to, it was just too risky. The more he chastised himself however, the stronger the temptation became.

By the time he was halfway down his street, all foreboding had left him as the effects of the lager, Thunderbird and adrenalin mingled to deaden all sense of risk. Something was drawing him back to the street where he'd got the high-class panties and the polo shirt the week before. He'd never visited the same washing line twice, in all his six months of knicker-picking. He knew it was courting danger, but the thought of another set of high-quality undies and maybe a nice sweater or T-shirt drove him onward, throwing caution to the wind.

A few late night taxis were ferrying their merry middle-class clients homeward after an evening of pub and Indian restaurant. The streets however, were as quiet as always. How he loved these leafy, Edwardian terraces‹perfect terrain for knicker-picking. Reaching the house, Stanley made straight for the back garden. It was dark, only a T.V slightly illuminating the living room. Creeping up to the washing line, he saw that it was laden. His bleary eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as he surveyed the silky lingerie all neatly pegged out.

He had unpegged a third pair of panties when the rustle of nylon waterproofs and the crack of twigs from the shrubbery made him start. The glare of the policemens' torches had the Knicker Picker blinking through his spectacles like a dazed rabbit.

Six months later, Stanley walked into his local Newsagent`s and bought a copy of the Willingdon Courier, he went back to the van and turned hastily to the This Week in Court page. With dismay his eyes fell on the fateful headline, Jesus ! it was the case of the week!

POSTMAN FINED FOR THEFT OF WOMEN`S UNDERWEAR......screamed the headline. Stanley Cecil Grundy, pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing over five hundred pairs of Women's panties, sixty brassieres, and forty other items of clothing from washing lines in the local area .....Mr Grundy, who is described as shy and unassuming agreed to counselling....

Bruce Downie(30) spent four years teaching English in Poland where he started writing in 1995. You can read his short story "The Pact" in 3 A.M. Fiction.

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